The opportunity to work directly with a variety of different animals is often reward enough for animal handlers. Someone who owns a stable of well-trained animals used in performances may be able to negotiate for large contracts, or a successful dog breeder may make a comfortable living with an established business, but most animal handlers make do with small salaries and hourly wages. Wages vary by region—in the colder Midwestern and Northern states, and in California, animal handlers can make more than those living in the Southeast. An experienced animal handler may draw an hourly wage of $16 to $20, or more. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that nonfarm animal handlers earned a median salary of $21,990 in May 2016, with the lowest paid 10 percent earning less than $17,550 and the top 10 percent earning more than $35,860. In February 2016, SimplyHired.com reported that the average salary of animal handlers employed in the United States was $53,000.
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